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Different year, same outcome: United will hold nerve in title tilt

After back-to-back defeats against Blackburn and Newcastle to end 2011 and open 2012, there were many who doubted that Manchester United would be able to successfully defend their Premier League crown. At that time, though only three points separated United and City at the top, many United supporters would’ve been content with a three-point lead going into the pivotal late-season derby at the Etihad Stadium.

But after overturning that deficit and taking an eight-point lead with only six matches remaining, a three-point lead can seem like a major disappointment. What’s perhaps most disappointing is that United held that advantage going into a fairly favorable pre-derby stretch. But instead of notching three straight wins to all but wrap up the title, United decided to make the task a little harder. As a result, there will be many a United supporter whose nerves will be shot well before Monday night’s kick-off.

United are 11-1 to win 2-1 on Monday night, with Rooney 7/1 to score the opening goal. Back Rooney to lead United to a (near) title-clinching win on Ladbrokes with a free £50 bet.

Of course, there might not be any nerves left at this point anyway, given how much of an emotional ride this season has been. Just over the last few months, there have been numerous tense finishes, several key wins, the Europa League exit and recent results against Wigan and Everton, and the multiple momentum shifts that have set up a gripping climax in the title race.

Derby days are always emotional for the obvious reasons, but there’s more emotion in this derby than any in some time because there’s so much at stake. And with so much time to sit and stew about the draw against Everton, the title race‘s closeness, and the possible outcomes Monday night and in the title race, there’s no wonder why nerves will be frayed before the kickoff, much less during the match itself.

Fortunately, you can guarantee that the players won’t share the same mindsets that fans might. Sure, there are naturally nerves and thoughts about the occasion and situation, but where the fan is often unable to keep such emotions and thoughts in check, players are able to switch off when it’s time to perform, and they can far more easily put poor results behind them.

That’s part of why United supporters should feel at least a little less tense ahead of the match. United are no strangers to big games, to rising to the occasion in a tense situation, to responding to adversity or poor results. This Premier League campaign has been a fine example. From dealing with numerous injuries, most notably to captain and defensive rock Nemanja Vidic, to the comeback at Chelsea, to responding to the Blackburn and Newcastle defeats by launching the long unbeaten run that put them in the driver’s seat, United have kept their cool and stood tall every time they were prematurely written off.

So, we should expect United to step up on Monday night, and if they perform as we have seen them do time and again in big games, then they’ll come away still in full control of their destiny. Sure, things are closer than they should be. The players couldn’t have been pleased about not closing things out against Everton, and you can be 1000% sure that Fergie wasn’t. But instead of agonizing over what wasn’t done, Fergie, as always, is looking forward, focusing on a strong, positive response, and the players will be focused on delivering.

United were in a similar position last season, holding a three-point lead with three matches remaining, with title rivals Chelsea coming to town. They delivered then, producing a 2-1 win to move within a point of the title, a point picked up in the next round at Blackburn. There are differences this season, as City hold a six-goal edge in goal difference and host this potentially decisive clash, but the mission’s still as simple. United would still be in pole position with a draw, but the door could remain open into the season’s final day. But with a win, United would again be able to clinch the title with at least a point in round 37.

So, you can expect United to go in search of a win. And why not? Yes, City have been an excellent league mark at the Etihad this season, winning 15 in a row before a draw against Sunderland, and picking up 49 of 51 possible points at home. As a result, it’s no surprise that Ladbrokes have City as 6/5 favorites to win. But United have already notched a win there, and they own the league’s best away record by a decent margin, with a dozen wins, three draws, and only two defeats in 17 matches.

It’s entirely possible that United could lose. Defeat is possible in any match. Defeat in this one would hand the initiative to City, but even still, United wouldn’t throw in the towel, knowing the title tide could quickly turn again, as City’s penultimate match is away to Newcastle, who are presently in the league‘s best run of form. But knowing they want to control their own destiny, and their history in these situations, there’s every reason to be confident about United picking up a pivotal positive result in enemy territory, and the 9/4 on United to win could end up looking like a real steal.


 

147 Comments

  1. Costas says:

    @Fletch

    I just heard about this rumor today pal. I haven’t heard much about Kagawa. It’s hard to tell, but it sounds to me like your typical silly season speculation. We will see in the summer. For what it’s worth, I believe Park could be on the way out anyway. But that’s a hunch..

  2. James7t7 says:

    Costas.. I hear what u saying.. You say it was the 2nd half I say it was 10 mins… Surely 1 half isn’t good enough 1 goal in 14 definitely aint good enough.. That’s Forlan standards.. Just because they did a one two reminiscent of cole Yorke against Barca does not mean they are a patch on them.. But I can’t see where the Rooney/Welbeck partnership has clicked?!? Rooney/Chico were on a phycic wavelength last year and it showed in every game. It doesn’t with Welbeck n Rooney.. They both want to be involved in buildup and very rarely put the opposing keeper under pressure.. Shot wise.. Chico isn’t having the peverbial 2nd season as he isn’t getting the run that his performances last year warranted. Seems a bit shitty on the gy to be left out for someone who is average at best.

  3. Costas says:

    @James7t7

    I don’t buy into the Yorke/Cole comparison just yet either, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work well as a partnership. These two started together at the Emirates, the Etihad and White Heart Lane (among other places) and didn’t do too bad as a partnership. Rooney and Javier clicked very well last season, but that hasn’t happened so far this season. Pea has had his injury problems and has also looked average in quite a few games. I think Fergie would have been more torn about what his best partnership was if Hernandez gave him more to think about. In my opinion anyway. Welbeck has also looked below par on a number of occasions, but seems to have raised his game in recent weeks.

    As for the goals, earlier in the season, Rooney scored 2 in 10 games and both of them were penalties. Like I said, anyone can go through a drought.

  4. Clint-Iamyourpapii says:

    Welbeck is a rubbish striker coming to the end of his playing career,12 goals and he’s 30 turning 31. He’s been a poor striker for 10 years now and SAF should have booted him when he scored that jammy goal against Stoke in 2008.

    James7t7 – Well spotted mate ;)

    Chicharito is the man with 10 goals in 27 Premier League games while Welbeck has a poor 9 in 29. Thats some really poor poor work from Danny especially when he plays at least a dozen more than Cheech.

    I say we sell Welbeck, Berbatov and Owen and just buy Karim Benzema or Yelavic. :)

  5. TheCANTONA says:

    Welbeck got 1 goal & 2 assist against Everton yet the fans still felt un-satisfied? WOW! What are we? A club with less dignity, lack patience likes Real Madrid, Chelsea or Manchester United which proud of their history?

  6. samuel - united WE stand says:

    WTF has hernandez done wrong? err maybe the fact other strikers are in better form than him would answer that. Welbeck deserves to start on merit, he’s the player with the better all around game and creativity.

    Hernandez needs to adapt his game. For a man with so called blistering speed, he gets caught off-side far too often for more liking. He’s a quality striker inside the box but like i always say, that’s not enough to be a starter these days. He once said he needed to add other repertoire to his skill set and that’s exactly what needs to happen. He needs improvements on his all round game in order to elevate into world class status.

  7. samuel - united WE stand says:

    After saying all that, it would be brilliant if hernandez made a major impact in the derby. That would be typical.

  8. Shebangsthedrums says:

    Good morning fellow reds. Woohoo it’s Saturday………….oh wait! Utd don’t play on Saturdays anymore.

  9. Joffrey Baratheon says:

    I wish I shared Scott’s confidence about Monday. I really hope I’m wrong but I have a bad feeling about Monday night.

  10. Yorke, Cole, Sheri, Solks says:

    Keep the faith

    We’ll get the result we need.

    In other news: Pep Guardiola’s end at Barca due to the high demands of success just shows how well Fergie has done to stay rejuvenated year after year. Huge respect for Pep and what he achieved though.

  11. Josh says:

    I would take a boring 0:0 now!!!!!

  12. Phil Hyde Red says:

    Michael Owen on as sub in added time and history is repeated. Didn’t SAF say sometime ago that he thought he had at least one more big goal in him. Maybe that time is about to come.

  13. Albert Ross says:

    Good day Reds!

    From Manutd.com an article on Jonny’s prowess on bringing the ball out of defense, which has recently shone. Evans maintains that his shift to the right hand side of defense brings his stronger right foot more into play.

    “Evans always had fantastic ability, even as a kid,” Sir Alex Ferguson said. “He was very talented as a boy when he came over here from Ireland at 12 years of age. We were never quite sure if he was going to be a midfield player or a centre-back.”

    That revelation was a surprise even to Jonny, who says he’s only ever concentrated on defending during his time at United. “That’s the first time I’ve heard that!” he said.

  14. Marq says:

    People forget how much football Hernandez has played for a good 2 years now without having a break.

    Welbeck is the better all round player right now and deserves his place beside Rooney. And the fact that we are out of all the cup competition early means that rotation wasn’t needed. Blame Sir Alex for fielding weaken teams against Basel & Benfica for that.

    But what done is done, we have only 3 games left this season, and we will have to field our strongest lineup (or most effective) for all 3 matches, Scholes included. Martin O’Neill came out and blasted Mancini for saying we have a easier run in, and he made perfect sense. For all those saying City will have a tough game against Newcastle, remember 1 thing. The 2 teams we are going to face after City are teams that have actually took points off City.

  15. King Eric says:

    Morning.

    Welbeck is “naff”?

    Welbeck is a much better all round player than Hernandez. He is fast, strong, links up, tireless. If Hernandez isn’t putting the ball in the net and the opposition are parking the bus he is pretty ineffective. Why the fuck would he walk? He has to FIGHT for his place.

    Clint and Samuel – Good assessments last night. From what I recall in most games recently against the bitters we HAVE dominated most of the game till we either went down to ten men or took our foot off the gas. City will be very loathe to bring it forward despite needing a win. Its in their make up.

    Mick Quinn this morning “Well I haven’t been on all week but WELL DONE MOYES AND THE LADS” How fucking smalltime can you get. A big Liverpool fan is actually pleased their cross town rivals are doing things to make it hard for us to win the league because his own shithouse club can’t. Fuck off you non impartial , biased scouse cunt. Go abuse some horses.

  16. King Eric says:

    Fletch – Hello mate. Although I have said Park may be sold I hope he isn’t. Still a damn good squad player.

    Costas – Morning pal. Will email when get a minute .

  17. King Eric says:

    Welbeck one goal in 14? What. Villa, Wolves and Everton for starters in recent games. 13 goals in 39 starts. 1 in 3. Not bad. He offers so mich more though.

  18. King Eric says:

    Phil Hyde Red – Hhmm. I too have a feeling there will be a big goal to come from Owen at some stage in the next couple of games.

    Josh – Ha. I agree. Would take a boring nil nil too.

  19. Costas says:

    Welbeck’s record was actually 1 in 14. It was between his goal against Arsenal and his goal against Villa. He only scored at Molineux during that time. Not that it means a lot…

    @KIng Eric

    Hi mate. Sure, take your time.

  20. King Eric says:

    Costas – Cheers mate. Oh I know that but he has scored 3 in last ? so many!

  21. Kings says:

    Fuck off John Ring Piece you cunt.

  22. CedarsDevil says:

    King Eric

    Morning pal, where are you watching the match on Monday? Either way, best you keep your phone next to you, at the end of the 90 this nutter will be giving you a ring, totally voiceless, drunk and celebrating a result!

  23. CedarsDevil says:

    A man of few posts these days and few words……… Yet when he speaks we bow down and listen…

    Kings – I salute you mate….

  24. Kings says:

    CedarsDevil – Thank you my good friend. Hope you are well buddy.

  25. MG says:

    Boring 0-0?

    I hope we teach the fuckers a footballing lesson.

    Never ever walk away from a fight.

    That’s not The United Way.

    19

    And Good Morning Manchester United ;)

  26. CedarsDevil says:

    MG

    Was thinking the same thing, if it does end nil nil than fine but I doubt that the lads will be playing for it, its not the United way…..Anyway, I expect anything but a boring match…

    Kings

    Doing great pal, so bloody pumped up its ridiculous!

  27. MG says:

    Morning Cedars ;)

    Now boring would be sitting at home watching the rain fall by

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to be in a bar on a beach watching bikini clad babes go by instead?

    Wait.

    :lol:

  28. King Eric says:

    Kings – Morning pal “John Ring Piece”. Quality.

    Cedars – At home mate. Yes give me a bell please so long as it doesn’t cost me!!

  29. King Eric says:

    MG – Alright pal. Oh I don’t suspect for a minute we wil play for a boring nil nil BUT I would take it all day long.

  30. CedarsDevil says:

    MG

    Being a night kick off the babes will be wearing a bit more than bikinis, still I do not mind as it leaves the imagination to do some work!!

    King Eric

    Its my treat pal, so no cost at your end!! Was gonna call you a few names but its still way too early in the day!! ha ha ha

  31. Costas says:

    @King Eric

    Yeah, it’s safe to say it’s gotten better in recent weeks for Danny. Now it’s 3 in the last 6. The goals will come if he works on his finishing. I like his all around play more though. For me, he should try to be more like Saha. He also missed his fair share of chances, but his all around movement was brilliant.

  32. Albert Ross says:

    I think that Rooney has had a few ’1-in-14′ periods at United. Worse, probably.
    In Europe, it felt like he would never score. I think he had a CL drought lasting over a year.

    Ronaldo couldn’t score in Europe for ages. Ole wasn’t remarkably prolific, and had droughts.
    We don’t can a player for a drought, especially when he is an important cog in the machine.

    Any United supporter who isn’t 100% behind Danny, is an enigma and a paradox, to me.

  33. James7t7 says:

    Hang on.. It’s because I am a utd supporter that I can criticise Welbeck. Christ I used to slate Evans.. But I can thankfully say he has proved me wrong for the majority of the season.

    My preference is Chico everyday of the week.. Sure I agree he does tend to get caught offside than he should considering his pace but he is intelligent to get that sorted over time.

    His natural eye for goal and movement is so immense that for me he is a starter every game. I think with his pace and Rooney natural stance of playing behind the striker works.

    I don’t think Rooney knows where Welbeck is half the time and on the occasion when they do get it right it works but it’s not too often.

    Welbeck is an extremely frustrating player that needs time and in matches where teams sit back and defend he seems to lack the ambition to try anything different, whereas due to his pace and shot ability Chico always gives you hope.

    I don’t agree Chico has had a bad season this year because he hasn’t been given the opportunity to get a decent run in the team, even though his goal ratio has been much better than Danny’s.

    I’m not writing Danny off but hes a strong guy.. Has pace.. But he never uses it to bulky defenders. He warrants the bench this season IMO

    I hope he proves me wrong too but I’m only sayin what I see week in week out.

  34. Albert Ross says:

    James7t7 – you are a reasonable guy, and I don’t think poorly of you at all.

    For me, being 100% behind Danny and Jonny is natural, and I don’t really understand how being a supporter entitles one to slate players. Perhaps it does, but no one can tell me why.

    i don’t think you’re slating Danny, perhaps you are. I don’t think any Red is entitled to either,
    but maybe that’s just me.

  35. MG says:

    Morning King Eric

    I have to run – need to sort out a problem – no water supply in the house at all

    I was just thinking James would really come in handy right now! ;)

    19

  36. James7t7 says:

    I’d call it constructive critism :D I don’t slate players as that’s usually unjust.

    I don’t think Chico is getting a fair crack this season… Has he done something to fall out of favour???.. If someone blistering is keeping him out then fair enough.. I wouldn’t use that to describe Danny’s form this year.

    I hope the stance doesn’t cost us silverware or the player if team like Real come knocking.

  37. Costas says:

    I think Berbatov (more than Hernandez) should be upset about the amount of games he’s played. Pea has still managed to play 35 games this season. Fair enough, he hasn’t started many in a row, but he rarely went more than 2-3 without starting. Berbatov has played 20 games and when you take form into consideration, there were times this season when he shouldn’t have been 4th in line. Speaking of records, he actually has a better goals/games average than Danny and Javier.

    But at the end of the day it’s irrelevant. Because above form or stats, Fergie makes up his mind based on what he feels is the best partnership. And at the moment, that seems to be Rooney and Danny.

  38. Albert Ross says:

    Well, knowing which stance cost us silverware is a complicated business. There is no reasonable way that we can attribute lack of success to our own personal gripes, because then every gripe of other Reds must get credit too, resulting in the ‘Chicharito’s absence’ option having minimal effect.

    Also, it is true that a myriad of factors affect selection. Most of these factors we are not aware of.

    It is said that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If you want to make a lot of puddings every year, it’s best to chose a recipe that will give you consistently good results. Developing Danny Welbeck into a world-class player with good temperament and values is our chosen path. A good path that we know has served us well. Neither Berbatov’s immediately available quality, nor Hernandez goal scoring feats will derail that.

    Chicharito, like all players at United, must play well every chance he gets, and enjoy learning and living with United. He will know that not every season will belong to him, but he will always play a big role in winning trophies. Always he must improve, knowing that United believe in him and his rewards will be rich. If he can top the United scoring charts 3 times in the next 8 years, we will be happy and he will be ecstatic. For Hernandez and United, it’s not really about any 1 year in particular. No striker is the best every year.

  39. King Eric says:

    Now imagine Welbeck with Hernandez’s finishing!

  40. Albert Ross says:

    Damn!
    Now I have to clean my keyboard!

  41. Costas says:

    Or imagine Hernandez with Berba’s skill. ;)

  42. James7t7 says:

    Or Chico Berba Welbeck and Owen rolled into one. Fair points all round.. Utd is a team rather than individuals and whoever chooses to stand up against city will be the hero of the season… I hope that’s Welbeck :D

  43. Marq says:

    Hernandez looks happy enough on the bench for now. Did you see him going crazy with delight for our 3rd or 4th goal against Everton. He was freaking more estatic than everyone out there!

    I think Sir Alex is trying to play Welbeck into form, like what he always does with Rooney. So I presume Sir Alex feels a on form Welbeck is better than a Hernandez that scores more.

    I hope Welbeck take skill lessons from Berbatov while he is still here & finishing lessons from Owen for that matter

  44. icemann says:

    most of the united squad have not experienced the title run in! Hope that it doesn’t cause a nervous breakdown! Gotta win or Draw….else kick the remaining 3 around for fun and outscore city!

  45. KingOfStretfordEnd says:

    @Albert Ross

    I had dream Rio scored the winner!

  46. Albert Ross says:

    KingOfStretfordEnd – That is a wonderful dream!

    He doesn’t score often, so to get the winner in this derby will be really special!

  47. NBI Red Onion says:

    SAF: said: “If City win on Monday they probably would win it from there, yes.

    “Even though they have got to go to Newcastle, I think they’d have a great chance. No doubt about that. Two games to go. A home and an away game.

    “If we won, we’d be strong favourites.

    “A draw, we’d be favourites — we’d have to be happy with that. But we won’t be talking about going there not to lose.”

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